Liberty County Commissioners got an update Tuesday on the county’s rural water system and were told of a grant that could help expand that service, though it wouldn’t come without a cost.
Matthew Barrow, an engineer with P.C. Simonton and Associates, started his presentation to commissioners by noting there are 253 active water customers who together use an average of 44,000 gallons a day, or average of 160 gallons consumed per household per day.
The county can extend its water system to residents along Lewis Frasier road, near Screven Fork Road, to a little past Slade Road where there are about 30 customers. The county also can provide service from Leroy Coffer Highway to Willie Dixon Road, for approximately six customers.
The total project cost is $662,303 though Barrow said up to $500,000 of that could be covered by a Community Development Block Grant from the Department of Community Affairs.
He talked about other funding sources to make up the difference, including previous SPLOSTs
But Commissioner Pat Bowen said the cost was high to provide water for 30 to 40 homes. Commissioner Connie Thrift and Bowen said some people will not want to switch over from deep wells to the water system.
Barrow said there are similar areas in Gum Branch with residents who may also want water. He suggested the commissioners have community meetings with residents
for feedback on whether or not they are interested in having the water system service extended to their area. If the feedback is favorable, then the next steps are to prepare design plans, do surveys of the area, and coordinate with a group or person who will submit the grant.
Commissioners also approved the rezoning of property along Oglethorpe Highway.
Jerry Poppell initially aimed use his property, off of Oglethorpe Highway, across from the new Dollar General, for a flea market and changed his mind after neighbors opposed the idea. Their concerns included an increase in traffic, water runoff and safety.
Poppell submitted a new request to the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission to rezone his property to commercial, without the flea market, for future development.
LCPC recommended approval with the condition that Poppell put up a 20-foot-wide fence and vegetative buffer between any commercial developments on his property next to homes.
At the board of commissioners meeting, commissioners discussed neighbors’ concerns and the zoning analysis.
Commissioner Marion Stevens said there were problems in the area with water flowing onto other properties.
"I’m sure that area (Poppell’s property) will be built up. That’s going to push that water onto another person’s property. It will create a domino effect," Stevens said.
Melissa Jones, a planner with the LCPC, said if Poppell develops the property water runoff would be addressed when he presents the site plans.
Poppell requested his property be rezoned from AR-1, agricultural residential, to B-2, general commercial. Gilliard asked what Poppell can have under B-2. Jones said businesses such as a convenience store, gas station, home occupation, daycare, and any non-profit—nothing high intense.
Stevens brought up the flea market. Jones said if Poppell wants a flea market he would need to come back to LCPC for a "conditional use" permit. The flea market is not allowable under B-2.
Poppell’s property is in an area designated as a mixed used corridor, meaning there are a variety of zonings in the area, such as industrial, commercial and residential. His zoning request would be in keeping with the comprehensive plan, Jones said, and any request for a business outside of B-2 will have to go before LCPC.
Poppell addressed the concern about water runoff.
"The property does have a retention pond in the back left corner. So any runoff always goes right there," Poppell said. "But as far as any runoff over the years, I’ve monitored it. I’ve even looked at it after this big storm. There’s absolutely no water runoff onto anyone’s property—anywhere."
Andrea Roberts Wynn was opposed to Poppell’s original request when he wanted a flea market. She was concerned about "stragglers" coming into the area, seeing the market from her backyard and increased traffic. Wynn was also confused because of the request change.
Lovette asked Jones to go back to the initial application and Poppell’s request change.
"Originally he asked for it to be rezoned and have a flea market, then there were some questions about GDOT. Then he didn’t want the flea market but still wants to rezone it," she said.
Stevens made a motion to disapprove Poppell’s request because of the zoning analysis, noise level and having commercial development in a cluster of residences. The motion failed for lack of a second.
Commissioner Eddie Walden said, "I’m probably down there as much as Mr. Poppell. There is noise coming from across 84 and noise coming from people working on vehicles. I’ve known Mr. Poppell for a long time and I don’ think that’s the kind of business he would run."
Walden made a motion to approve the request. It passed 5-1, with Stevens opposed.